Terminal plan still up in the air

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Terry Redman MLA has continued demands for Busselton Airport’s promised passenger terminal to be built.
Camera IconTerry Redman MLA has continued demands for Busselton Airport’s promised passenger terminal to be built. Credit: The West Australian, Sharon Smith The West Australian

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman has decried the lack of funding to build Busselton Airport’s promised passenger terminal.

Confirmation Jetstar would start direct flights between Busselton and Melbourne next year was widely welcomed last week, with Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan pledging $3.265 million to bring landing facilities up to scratch.

But it was not the commitment sought by the Capes MLA, nor members of the Busselton Airport Action Group, which warned before Friday’s announcement it did not want to see taxpayers’ money spent on a halfway solution.

Action group spokesman Steve Hayman said the Government had recanted its commitment to the full terminal build three times.

“We want answers from the Government on the airport construction,” he said. “Ms MacTiernan said if we secured an airline, they’d build the terminal.

“That’s happened.

“Now they’re saying ‘in three years time we’ll think about it’.”

Jet Adventures owner and action group member Peter Kalbfell said the issue should concern all South West residents.

“Ms MacTiernan is deliberately holding back this region by not releasing the funds,” he said.

Residents embraced news of the Busselton-to-Melbourne flights, and the action group stressed flights to Sydney and eventually Singapore were up in the air without a proper base.

“They can’t start negotiations until the terminal is constructed,” Mr Kalbfell said.

“Build it in the right spot. Where they want to build the temporary terminal is 500m from the carpark, so it’s in the wrong place.”

The group reiterated calls not to waste money, and to build the terminal — even in stages — at the final location.

Ms MacTiernan said the terminal would be considered in three years when “we’ve got a business case to justify (it)”.

The planned upgrades were “for a very modest price”. Future flights, and hopes still for a Qantas pilot academy, would prove the need for a terminal, she said.

“Fundamentally, this was not about a terminal,” Ms MacTiernan said. “This was about airline services.”

– and what we’ve managed to secure, working with our partners, is the service, a good quality service that can be accommodated in the existing terminal with a few minor upgrades.”

Mr Redman said it was time for the minister to release the $10 million set aside for the terminal.

“Minister MacTiernan committed to fund the terminal upgrade once a contract was signed with an airline,” he said. “However, she then shifted the goalposts and reneged on this promise.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the terminal was crucial, and the minister should stop referring to the three-year flights plan as a “trial”.

“Jetstar isn’t calling it a trial,” she said. “It’s now time for the Government to step up.”

Ms Mettam also said tourism figures released this week reiterated the need to plan for more visitors.

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